Waldorf Astoria New York which has been shuttered since March awaiting a massive $2 billion renovation, has finally hired a demolition crew to begin the project next month, The New York Post has learned.
Insiders say Hilton Hotels, which operates the Waldorf and owns the rights to its name, has been sweating bullets lately as Anbang, the Chinese insurance giant that owns the 86-year-old landmark, has stayed stonily silent after boarding up the building in March.
That’s partly because Anbang’s billionaire boss, Wu Xiaohui, has been “detained” by China’s authorities, with rumors swirling that he’s in trouble with the nation’s ruling Communist Party. In July, Bloomberg reported that Anbang may be forced to sell off US assets, including the Waldorf, as Beijing clamps down on cash leaving the country.
“There have been some delays involving Chinese real estate groups because of the stricter requirements and a lockdown on Chinese capital flowing out,” said Mark VanStekelenburg, managing director of CBRE Hotels.
One source close to Anbang, which bought the Big Apple’s most famous and historic hotel for a record price of $1.95 billion three years ago, insists that the three-year revamp is “on schedule,” with AECOM Tishman slated to begin demolition next month.
Last fall, Anbang said it would convert just 321 rooms into condos, leaving 840 hotel rooms. But subsequently, insiders say, Anbang turned the plan upside down, slashing the rooms allotted to the hotel to between 350 and 400.
The move, Hilton officials privately gripe, has reduced the Waldorf, where every US president except President Trump has stayed since Herbert Hoover, into a boutique hotel.
“There was never a hint they would shut the Waldorf down and condo it,” a source close to Hilton told The Post. “Hilton wants a lot more hotel rooms. This was the grandest hotel in the world.”
The repercussions could echo far beyond Park Avenue, insiders say. That’s because Hilton has licensed out the name to create 29 Waldorf Astoria resorts worldwide.
Anbang “has Hilton over a barrel,” the source close to Hilton added, as Hilton’s only means of retaliation would be to revoke Anbang’s license to the Waldorf name — a move that would effectively tear out the heart of the brand.
“This is your linchpin for selling Waldorf properties,” the source said of the 47-story, Art Deco landmark at 301 Park Ave. “The entire brand revolves around the Manhattan property.”
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